UK blocks Met cost query

The Metropolitan Police Service has denied an open records request seeking to determine how money has been spent by a team of UK police investigators probing alleged misconduct in the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.

The Caymanian Compass filed the request on 28 November with the Met seeking to determine, as specifically as possible, expenses for room, meals, office rent, salary, travel, transportation and other costs related to the special investigation that has been under way here since September 2007.

Met officials have declined to release the information, generally because they have ruled releasing it could prejudice an on-going investigation and place police officers in danger.

According to an e-mailed response by Information Manager Andrew Beaumont, the UK’s Freedom of Information Act allows authorities to withhold information obtained or recorded for the purposes of investigations. Information can also be withheld if it endangers the safety of individuals.

When public funds are spent, the UK law generally considers there to be a ‘significant public interest’ in making information available that would demonstrate the way in which resources are allocated.

‘Although one of your questions relates to cost,’ Mr. Beaumont wrote, ‘release of this could lead to the identification of the number of officers employed on this investigation. This could, in turn, lead to officers being identified and being put in danger.’

‘As the investigation is still on-going, release of the exempted information could impact and may prejudice the outcome and this would not be in the public interest.’

Certain figures related to the overall cost of the UK Met officers probe have been released on previous occasions from various sources.

In the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee last year it was revealed that $1.67 million had been spent from September 2007 through June 2008 on the investigation. Governor Stuart Jack later said that figure totalled $2.6 million through mid-November.

Cabinet ministers said another $400,000 was requested in January, and forced through the approval process by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

So there has been appropriation for at least CI$3 million thus far, not including the CI$1.275 million paid by the Cayman Islands government to settle a wrongful arrest claim made against the UK Met investigating team by a Grand Court judge.

However, no one has provided a specific break down of costs for the investigation.